Price paid: $ 2000
Purchased from: Ebay
Features — 9
Like many players, I’ve gone through several guitars, slowly honing my preferences to get the features I’ve always wanted in one instrument. Generally speaking, I do prefer headless guitars (and those with smaller bodies), due to their lighter weight, but also because I play in a home studio where the headstock often gets the in way and smashes into computer screens, synthesizers, etc.
Specifically, the Stranberg Boden Prog 7 (part of the Boden line, a 7-string guitar designed for Prog/Rock musicians and released in 2017) has so many of my desired features that I had to acquire it.
Based out of Sweden (with this model made in South Korea), the Prog 7’s roasted maple 20-inch radius neck has 24 Jescar 57110 stainless steel frets, an ebony fretboard, graphite nut and a multi-scale layout (26.25 inches – 25.5 inches) that offers a more even tension among strings when compared to a single/standard scale. The fretboard also has blue Luminlay (glow-in-the-dark) offset dots (along the top for the lower half of the neck, then along the bottom for the lower half), as well as blue Luminlay side dot markers. I don’t play on dark stages, but they look cool as the Sun goes down. The neck is reinforced with 2-piece carbon fiber rods and a dual action truss rod.
A unique feature to Strandberg guitars is the patent pending Endurneck, which has flat surfaces rather than a rounded surface. At first this may seem strange (like Strandberg is trying to save production costs by not machining the neck with a curve), but its geometry increases thumb surface area contact, thus making playing more comfortable, relaxed and efficient. In effect, the angles of that flattened surface interact to encourage a more correct playing position and a straighter wrist (also, the flat surface slopes down from the end of the neck and toward the bridge), and that means less strain and fatigue of the wrist and fingers. It took me minutes to get used to it and eventually not even noticing it. For those who play with the thumb over the neck (to play bass lines while fretting other notes), this neck shape may not be ideal on a 7-string, but other Strandberg 6-string versions (with a smaller neck profile) likely would not inhibit such playing characteristics. Do note that this is a bolt-on neck, and although a neck-thru with rounded heel design would allow for easier upper fret access, it was only slightly cumbersome initially to access the upper frets.
The body consists of chambered swamp ash (making it super light at 5 pounds) with a flame matched maple (black semi-gloss poly finish) top. What I love about the body is that it allows you to place it in two different positions on the lap, whether playing in a more conventional style or propped on your leg like a classical guitar (which forces you to sit more upright and avoid slouching).
Sound — 10
Another reason for choosing this guitar is that it is equipped with Fishman Fluence Modern humbucker pickups (something I desired based on reputation and some YouTube videos). I like active pickups, but often find the sound a bit one-dimensional and too punchy. The Fishman pickups are anything but (highly endorsed by Devin Townsend and Tosin Abasi, each with signature Fishmans); you get far more subtle nuances from your playing with the Fishman’s, but with that aggressiveness you want for rock and prog music. Highly reactive and immediate, I find they deliver dynamics and transients that are common with passive pickups, although at a heightened level (and they are free from hum, noise and frustrating inductance issues that even high quality pickups tend to battle!).
The electronics certainly make your tonal palate diverse with its 3-way switch & push-pull Tone (voice ½) and Volume (split), the latter of which means you have two distinct onboard sounds (taken from either the core of the pickup or its outer boundaries). And so, pull up both tone and volume knobs and you get a far ‘thinner’ sound for those Strat-style songs that need less punch, but still having the dynamics the Fishman’s offer. Both the tone and volume controls are constructed of anodized aluminum.
The review video below includes some sound samples, playing through an Axe Fx II and direct into recording software. Because of the swamp ash and maple top combination, you can hear the punch high-mids and tightness in the tone, enhanced/supported by the SpectraFlex Fatsoflex guitar cable (unless you’re playing heavily distorted and loud music, you can hear the difference with a good cable, e.g., muddy vs. clear). Even the lower notes come out far more clearly on this axe than with my other 7 & 8 string guitars.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I may be wrong, but I believe most Strandberg guitars come equipped with moderate string action (as a general starting point for consumers). The bridge does not adjust up or down, but rather string height is controlled by adjusting the truss rod. The instructions make this clear, in that the factory preset has the strings at a particular height and wanting lower action requires a few turns of the truss rod wrench. This took about 60-seconds of experimentation to get the action down where I wanted. Simple enough.
The maple top was bookmatched incredibly well (the dark black/grey finish makes it difficult to see the seam), and the routing for pickups and bridge was flawless. The thin body is made even more comfortable as it includes a torso carve with arm bevel. What I like most is the ease of string bending and vibrato – far easier than some other 7-string guitars I’ve played (including those with a multi-scale, fanned fret design). Boden Prog 7’s play almost has a ‘buttery’ feel to it.
The hardware originally was black, but I did a bit of customization with silver cross knobs (GuitArtz on Etsy.com) and spike strap locks (GuitarThrones.com), which match the pickup covers and gives the entire look some added flair (as shown in the video).
I want to make mention of the Strandberg EGS Series tremolo bridge (made from light aircraft grade aluminum). I have another multi-scale headless guitar which was my go-to guitar… it too is light weight, I like the sound and playability, etc., but it did not have a tremolo bridge (and the company for that style guitar indicated no plans on providing a headless multi-scale with a tremolo bridge). Consequently, this was another important reason/feature for moving on and choosing the Strandberg Boden Prog 7. When I recorded previously I had to put down my main guitar and choose another guitar with a tremolo so that I could use that ‘device’ for a few notes or phrases – a process I found annoying. The Strandberg bridge is well-designed, allowing for easy palm muting, although the tuner knobs are a bit stiff (a heavier knurl on those knobs would help).
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar stays in tune very well, even when using the tremolo. Compared to other guitars I have owned (signature Les Paul and Carvin/Kiesel), the Strandberg Boden Prog 7 is as well constructed and professionally developed. Initially it feel ‘cheap’ because it is so darn light, the result of a chambered body and aircraft aluminum parts, but as you play the instrument it becomes clear the quality.
Although not as well known as Gibson or Fender, Strandberg offers a professionally made line of guitars, with signature models played by Chris Letchford (Scale the Summit), Alex Machacek (jazz-fusion soloist) and Paul Masvidal (Cynic). The price tag of Strandberg guitars vary from $1200 to over $3000, which suggests they offer higher end instruments that are still reasonably priced when compared to the bigger names as well as custom luthier builds.
Its durability can be felt in the switch, knobs and cable plug-in/jack. Some guitars have a more sensitive pickup selector switch, meaning as you switch among pickups you can accidentally flip it to an undesired choice. The Strandberg is very solid and ‘clicky’ when making your pickup/voicing choice, a trait also shared with the push-pull tone/volume knobs – they do not feel flimsy. As well, the guitar jack has an extremely solid two-stage push – if you push the cable in most of the way you hear one click, but continue to give it a good push and it grabs hold very securely. The angle of the guitar cable also makes it clear that it would be difficult for it to come out, even if you stepped on the cable – you are plugging in a slight downward position, and so stepping on the cable would make it jam even more.
Overall Impression — 9
My music compositions vary, although a majority involves melodic rock instrumentals with a good dose of energy. I like that aggressive singing quality of the Fishman pickups (so many harmonic nuances!) and certainly enjoy the use of a tremolo arm when needed. Many guitar purchases were made out of curiosity, whereas this was the first guitar purchased with a desired outcome and with features I wanted:
• Unique Endurneck construction (super comfortable on the thumb and palm)
• Stainless steel frets (for longer wear), although I do prefer larger frets, which is my only issue with this guitar
• Tremolo bridge
• Unique body construction to allow for different playing positions
• Fishman Fluence Modern pickups (for a higher quality aggressive tone than what most active [or passive] pickups offer)
• Lightweight and small body (which makes it easier for travel and to wear when standing for prolonged periods)
• Vertical insert jack makes it near impossible for the cable to come loose
• Modern and cool looking shape